Tennessee businesses and other public spaces will soon have to put up warning signs if they allow transgender people to use the restrooms and changing rooms aligning with their gender identity.
That’s under a bill signed into law Monday by Republican Gov. Bill Lee, just three days after he signed another anti-trans “bathroom bill,” that one regulating restroom access in public schools.
House Bill 1182 requires any “building or facility open to the general public” that allows trans access to post a sign with this language: “This facility has a policy of allowing the use of restrooms by either biological sex, regardless of the designation on the restroom.” It applies to locker rooms, showers, and dressing rooms as well, and it goes into effect July 1.
The Human Rights Campaign calls the language “offensive and humiliating,” and points out that this and the school restroom bill that Lee signed Friday are the first “bathroom bills” to become law since North Carolina’s infamous House Bill 2 in 2016. HB 2, now largely repealed, barred trans people from the restrooms designated for their gender identity in government buildings and also prevented the enactment or enforcement of LGBTQ-inclusive civil rights ordinances in cities and counties throughout the state. It led to boycotts of North Carolina by entertainers, businesses, sports leagues, and more.
HB 1182 is the fourth anti-LGBTQ+ bill signed into law by Lee this session. The other bathroom bill bars trans people from any multi-occupancy restroom or changing room in a public school and grants anyone who encounters a member of the “opposite sex” in such a facility the right to sue. Another keeps trans student athletes from competing on the school sports teams aligned with their gender identity. The third requires schools to give parents advance notice of lessons with LGBTQ+ content and allows them to keep their children out of these lessons.
Lee has yet to take action on another anti-trans bill passed by both houses of the legislature, Senate Bill 126, which would bar doctors from prescribing hormone treatment for certain trans minors.
This year has seen more than 250 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in state legislatures around the nation and 19 of them signed into law, both record numbers. About half are specifically anti-trans, mostly seeking to ban gender-affirming health care for trans youth or keep them off the sports teams designated for their gender identity. So far Arkansas is the only state where a health care ban has become into law, with legislators overrding the governor’s veto.
The HRC issued a press release condemning Lee’s action. “Gov. Lee’s decision to sign HB 1182 will cause real harm to transgender Tennesseans,” said HRC President Alphonso David. “Denying transgender people the ability to access a bathroom consistent with their gender identity is degrading and dehumanizing — and can have real health and safety consequences. Gov. Lee and Tennessee lawmakers are determined to discriminate against the transgender community and roll back the clock on equality instead of focusing on real problems facing Tennesseans. To be clear — Tennessee residents will suffer economic, legal, and reputational consequences of these bills and we will hold those who are indoctrinating hate into our laws accountable.”